Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 is the masterpiece featured on the first Essentials concert of the season. Onstage in the Main Hall, the enthusiastic presenter Thomas Vanderveken will be providing background information on this ‘essential’ symphony in his own unique way. Plus there’s plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle over drinks at the Entrée Café after the concert.
The young Sibelius was sent by his benefactor to an idyllic spot in Italy to gain inspiration, but the Finnish composer felt miserable and unhappy there. After attending a performance of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, however, he cheered up and wrote a symphony encompassing all his impressions and emotions – ‘a confession of the soul’. Sibelius’s compatriots actually heard something very different in the work, a declaration of independence. The heroic, upbeat first and last movements were exactly what the Finnish public needed under Russian oppression in 1902. The successful premiere confirmed Sibelius’s reputation as Finland’s national hero, and the Second Symphony soon scored triumphs outside the country as well.